The confirmation hearings for Rep. Hilda Solis, D-El Monte, were abruptly halted Thursday, after new revelations about tax liens on her husband's business.
The jockeying to replace Solis, a former member of the California Assembly and Senate, has already reached a fever pitch. Among the top candidates in the race to replace her are Board of Equalization chairwoman Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, and state Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles.
The race between Chu and Cedillo has already gotten heated. Chu has lined up endorsements from the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and service employee unions. Cedillo is being backed by former state Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Gloria Romero, who represents much of Solis's 32nd Assembly District.
Controversy over the appointment erupted just prior to a hearing of the Senate's Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, which had been scheduled to consider her nomination. USA Today reported that the committee members did not learn about the tax issue until Thursday. The newspaper said that her husband yesterday paid about $6,400 to settle tax liens against his business — including liens that had been outstanding for as long as 16 years.
A joint statement issued by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the panel's chairman, and Mike Enzi (Wyoming), the panel's ranking Republican, confirmed that that consideration of the nomination had been placed on hold.
"Today's executive session was postponed to allow members additional time to review the documentation submitted in support of Representative Solis's nomination to serve in the important position of Labor Secretary," the statement said.
"There are no holds on her nomination and members on both sides of the aisle remain committed to giving her nomination the fair and thorough consideration that she deserves. We will continue to work together to move this nomination forward as soon as possible."
Solis, the daughter of immigrant parents from Nicaragua and Mexico, served eight years in the California Legislauture – a single term in the Assembly, and six years in the Senate. She cut short her second term in the Senate to run for Congress in 2000. Solis, who is considered to have strong environmental credentials and close ties to labor, was the first Hispanic woman to serve in the California Senate.
In the 1990s, she authored legislation to increase the minimum wage in California to $5.25 an hour, a bill that later was vetoed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. She later pushed the legislation in the form of a ballot initiative, which was approved. The move brought her statewide recognition for the first time.
Before her state political career, Solis had served in the Office of Hispanic Affairs in the Carter administration.